MOSCOW, SEPT. 14 -- Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev met today with two Israeli cabinet ministers, the highest-level talks between the two countries since Moscow broke off relations with Jerusalem following the 1967 Mideast war.

The meeting, which had been kept secret by the Soviet side, is the latest step in a gradual warming of relations between the two countries in the past three years. The Israelis, who are seeking the reestablishment of diplomatic ties, are also trying to arrange a meeting at the United Nations next month between Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze and his Israeli counterpart, David Levy.

Although the official Soviet media gave no details of Gorbachev's meeting with Finance Minister Yitzkhak Modai and Science Minister Yuval Neeman, Israeli army radio reported prior to the session that the two ministers would discuss potential agricultural sales to Moscow with the Soviet leader.

The Israeli media also said the two countries were considering a barter deal in which the Soviet Union would trade oil for food.

The Soviet Union and Israel exchanged consular delegations in 1987, and diplomats here said the two countries are moving steadily toward the reestablishment of normal diplomatic relations. "In fact, today's meeting smells like the start of real relations," said Micah Chlenov, one of the key leaders of Moscow's Jewish community.

Earlier this week, Israeli Housing Minister Ariel Sharon came to Moscow at the invitation of the Moscow City Council and a building cooperative to discuss a possible barter agreement in which Israel would receive building materials in exchange for fruits and vegetables. The Israelis have been finding it difficult to construct enough housing to accommodate the 87,000 immigrants from the Soviet Union who have arrived so far this year.

The newspaper Sovyetskaya Rossiya attacked Sharon Thursday for his hard-line views on the occupied territories and his history as Israeli defense minister during the war in Lebanon.

After the 1967 war, the Soviet Union and its East European satellites, except Romania, cut off diplomatic ties with Israel. Following their democratic uprisings last year, most of the East European states have reestablished relations with Jerusalem.

Last June, the Soviet Union, under pressure from Palestinians and Arab states, demanded that the Israelis not settle newly arrived Soviet emigres in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. Modai, a leader of one of the conservative Likud party factions, said Israel would agree.

Until the announcement tonight on the television news program "Vremya," Soviet officials did their best to deflect attention from and deny the possibility of Gorbachev's meeting with the Israelis. Foreign Ministry spokesman Gennadi Gerasimov told a reporter for Israeli radio that the chances for such a meeting were "unreasonable."

It was not known whether Gorbachev discussed the Persian Gulf crisis with the Israelis, but the Soviet leader did spend much of a 90-minute session with British Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd on the subject. Hurd told reporters that Gorbachev was reluctant to use force against Iraq even if Iraqi President Saddam Hussein does not withdraw from Kuwait under the pressure of economic sanctions.

"I said {to Gorbachev} that we have to keep the military option open to make it clear to {Saddam} that he is going to lose this one," Hurd said.